World’s first traveling art museum opens in Virginia - HISTORY
Year
1953

World’s first traveling art museum opens in Virginia

The world’s first art museum on wheels—an “inspiration for the nation,” says a representative from the Smithsonian–opens today in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It was called the Artmobile. At the dedication ceremony, the state’s governor declared that the project “initiates something new in the cultural and spiritual life of the Commonwealth which has never been done before anywhere.”

Visitors entered the Artmobile in small groups and were free to look at the art on display for as long as they liked. (Admission was free for schoolchildren and members of local women’s clubs; everyone else paid 25 cents to get in.) Meanwhile, a 15-minute mini-lecture explaining the significance of the works in the exhibition looped in the background. The lecture was very informal and was usually narrated by a local radio personality, so most visitors felt right at home.

For its first tour through the state, the Artmobile carried sixteen paintings by 15th- and 16th-century Dutch and Flemish “Little Masters”: Bosch, Brueghel, Cuyp, Jordaens, van Rhysdael and Terborsch. The museum had borrowed the paintings, worth about $500,000, from the collection of Walter P. Chrysler Jr. (Chrysler, an art collector and theater producer whose father founded the Chrysler Corporation, had an estate near Warrenton, Virginia.) In all, the Little Masters traveled 20,000 miles in their first 53 weeks on the road and had 60,000 visitors, mostly students who had never been to the brick-and-mortar museum in Richmond.

The Artmobile was so successful that other states began to plan similar projects. By 1965, there were four Artmobiles in Virginia and a handful of others in places like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Today, there are dozens of Artmobile-inspired museums on wheels in cities and towns across the United States and around the world.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Palestinians hijack German airliner

Four Palestinians hijack a Lufthansa airliner and demand the release of 11 imprisoned members of Germany’s Baader-Meinhof terrorist group, also known as the Red Army Faction. The Red Army Faction was a group of ultra-left revolutionaries who terrorized Germany for three decades, ...read more

Sir Isaac Brock saves Canada

During the War of 1812, British and Indian forces under Sir Isaac Brock defeat Americans under General Stephen Van Rensselaer at the Battle of Queenstown Heights, on the Niagara frontier in Ontario, Canada. The British victory, in which more than 1,000 U.S. troops were killed, ...read more

Continental Navy established

The Continental Congress authorizes construction and administration of the first American naval force—the precursor of the United States Navy.Since the outbreak of open hostilities with the British in April, little consideration had been given to protection by sea until Congress ...read more

B’nai B’rith founded

B’nai B’rith, the oldest Jewish service organization in the world, is founded in New York City by Henry Jones and 11 others. B’nai B’rith, meaning “Sons of the Covenant,” organized its first lodge in November, and Isaac Dittenhoefer was elected the first president. The fraternal ...read more

White House cornerstone laid

The cornerstone is laid for a presidential residence in the newly designated capital city of Washington. In 1800, President John Adams became the first president to reside in the executive mansion, which soon became known as the “White House” because its white-gray Virginia ...read more

Poet Charles Sorley killed at Loos

On this day in 1915, the 21-year-old Scottish poet Charles Hamilton Sorley is killed by a German sniper’s bullet during the Battle of Loos.The son of a university professor in Aberdeen and a promising scholar himself, Sorley decided to spend a year studying in Germany in 1913 ...read more

American Basketball Association debuts

On October 13, 1967, the Anaheim Amigos lose to the Oakland Oaks, 134-129, in the inaugural game of the American Basketball Association. In its first season, the ABA included 11 teams: the Pittsburgh Pipers, Minnesota Muskies, Indiana Pacers, Kentucky Colonels and New Jersey ...read more

White House cornerstone is laid

On this day in 1792, the cornerstone of the White House is laid in the nation’s new capital, Washington, D.C.George Washington, who had been in office just over a year when the site for the capital was determined, asked a French architect and city planner named Pierre L’Enfant to ...read more

Poet Robert Lowell sentenced to prison

On this day in 1943, 26-year-old poet Robert Lowell is sentenced to jail for a year for evading the draft. Lowell refused to be drafted because he objected to saturation bombing in Europe and other Allied tactics. He served the term in New York’s West Street jail.Lowell was born ...read more

Jimmy Stewart stars in Harvey

On this day in 1950, the actor James Stewart stars in Harvey, a drama about an eccentric man whose best friend is a giant invisible rabbit. Directed by Henry Koster and based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by Mary Chase, Harvey earned Stewart the fourth Best ...read more

Ohio voters reject Vallandigham

The voters of Ohio send Clement Vallandigham to a resounding defeat in the fall gubernatorial election. As leader of the Copperheads, or anti-war Democrats, Vallandigham was an important and highly visible critic of the Republicans’ war policy, particularly the emancipation of ...read more